George Lucas Educational Foundation

Starting a Pilot Program in Our School

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Here in Anderson Valley, we have a pretty strong need for an alternative education program for families. We are a one-school distict, so from K-12, there is only one option for all families and students. Many families homeschool or just leave if their childrens' needs are not being met.

A co-worker and I are working with the district to develop an alternative program based on Project Based Learning, fostering critical thinking skills, and using independent learning plans. It will be a multi-aged classroom for students in K-6 grades. 

While we have gotten the OK from the district to begin in the Fall of 2015, we will be technically a homestudy program with an optional classroom component. So as teachers, we are putting our careers on the line with the belief that we can create a great program and have enough attendance to pay our salaries.

What we are faced with now is that a lot of families have participated in the process of creating this program, but now they have to sign on the dotted line and commit to enrolling their children. We need to find a way to market the program, and in language that parents understand and feel confident about. There is a huge amount of parent education to do.

So I am looking for advice on resources for parents in plain speech, marketing strategies, other programs experiences starting out etc. Anything I can get my hands on that will help us build our student base to have a successful program.

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Laura Thomas's picture
Laura Thomas
Director, Antioch University New England Center for School Renewal, Author of Facilitating Authentic Learning, Director of the Antioch Critical Skills Program; Elementary Library Media Specialist

Hi Deleh! I haven't done this as an educator, but as a mom who's looking at an alternative program for her kid (but isn't quite convinced yet), let me tell you the big questions I have. Maybe looking at it from this point of view will help?
1. Will my student be ready for whatever comes next after high school? Academically ready? (I'm comfortable with the school's ability to get him ready from a 21st Century perspective)
2. How do I know it's worth it to sacrifice the traditional American school experience?
3. What evidence do you have that this works? (I'm not talking about test scores- I want to hear stories from kids like mine)
4. Will it be safe? Not just physically (sometimes alternative schools end up in truly terrible facilities), but emotionally? I don't want to send my kid to a school where' he's going to be surrounded by kids who are going to bully him. How are you going to create a community?
5. What is the public perception of the school going to be? If you can tell me in a sentence the way you envision the school fitting into the community, I'm more likely to be able to decide whether it's the right fit for my kiddo.

Even parents who've been involved in the design can get cold feet. These are our babies, you know?

Keep us posted!

Deleh's picture

Thanks Laura,

That's really helpful.

A parent at a recent meeting suggested something similar, like having a frequently asked questions (FAQ) page.

This process is so fascinating. It seems like parents should be asking these questions of any school their children attend.

Laura Thomas's picture
Laura Thomas
Director, Antioch University New England Center for School Renewal, Author of Facilitating Authentic Learning, Director of the Antioch Critical Skills Program; Elementary Library Media Specialist

I agree- but as you know, in a one-school district the answers are either irrelevant (because you can't do anything about them) or frustrating (because you can't do anything about them).

Alex Shevrin's picture
Alex Shevrin
Community college teacher, former school leader, Edutopia community facilitator

Deleh, I think Laura is right on target with those questions. I would add that you could focus on the relationships, community, and care that a smaller program will offer. I think a lot of parents with kiddos who fight well into an alternative school will want that small community feeling.

Kevin Jarrett's picture
Kevin Jarrett
Maker Educator, Google Certified Innovator, Dreamer, Doer. Learning experience designer, workshop leader/speaker, author. Stanford #Fablearn Fellow. #GoogleEI

This sounds really cool - have you thought of tapping into the "families have participated in the process of creating this program?" I am willing to bet that there are several enthusiastic parents in that group that would make OUTSTANDING and totally HONEST testimonials for your program. Nothing more powerful than the words of someone who has decided to invest their money and children's future in the program! What do you think?

Cifufa's picture

Hello! I would love to learn more about your work and how it's going. I work here in Newark doing something a bit similar thing with an organization called The Future Project.

Samer Rabadi's picture
Samer Rabadi
Online Community Engagement Manager

Paul, this post is a couple of years old, and it doesn't look like the original author is still subscribed to receive alerts from it. Sorry.

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